how to punctuate dialogue


(a general guide, dedicated to anon)

For the purposes of this description I’m going to use the word Words to indicate whatever the character is saying and the word Attribution to refer to the dialogue tag (the bit where you write ‘she said’). Further details and actual examples behind the cut.

1. dialogue followed by speaker

“Words,” attribution.

1a. quotation that is a question or an exclamation followed by speaker

  • “Words?” attribution.
  • “Words!” attribution.

The only difference from the above is changing the comma to a question mark or exclamation point. 

2. speaker followed by dialogue

  • Attribution, “Words.” 
  • Attribution, “Words?” 
  • Attribution, “Words!”

3. dialogue with the speaker in the middle of the quote

  • “Words,” attribution, “words.”
  • “Words,” attribution, “words?”

  • “Words,” attribution, “words!”

4. dialogue without attribution (the speaker is obvious and doesn’t need to be named)

  • “Words.”
  • “Words?”
  • “Words!”

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